Norman Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Norman castles.

  • The Norman invasion in 1066 is seen as the start of the Middle Ages in England. Castles were built by the Normans in just a few weeks and could shelter men, horses and supplies.
  • The earliest Norman castles were pre-built (to some extent) and transported to England on boats. The first of these was Pevensey Castle, which today is said to be haunted by a pale lady.

  • The Normans built over 500 castles in the British Isles, many of them simple motte and bailey structures. About 90 of these can still be seen today throughout England and Ireland.
  • The motte was a large defensive mound, and the bailey was a courtyard. Most of the early Norman castles were made of wood and built on high ground, for better defence.
  • Later Norman castles were known as enclosure castles and had towers, higher walls and a gatehouse. Later castles also had round towers which were stronger if invaders tried to tunnel under them.
  • One of the best known Norman castles is Kenilworth Castle, built around 1120. In 1266, the castle was under siege for 6 months, one of the longest sieges in English history
  • The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror, with stone imported from France. Over the centuries, it has been used as a treasure house, palace, zoo and prison.
  • Colchester Castle, in Britain’s oldest town, is another of the well known Norman castles. The main tower, or keep, measures 46 by 34 metres and is the largest in England.
  • William the Conqueror also built Warwick Castle, in 1068. The castle is home to one of the world’s largest working siege engines, or catapults, which is able to hurl stones up to 300 metres.
  • Norman castles often had several defensive features. These included a deep water-filled moat, high walls and murder holes through which boiling liquids could be poured on the heads of attackers.

What next? Discover some more castle facts, or learn all about the Normans.